Items of interest:

  • Background history of the Anglican Church in Lexton. Names mentioned: Lachlan McGillivray, Rev. John Cheyne, William Morley, R. W. Pohlman, David Gray, Rev. C. Neville.
  • Some History of Moonambel. Names mentioned: Bill Adams, Miss Et. Slater, Mr. John F. Paten, Godfray Morgan, Bull and Beedon, J. Stevens, Symons and DuBourg, Jones and Lowe, Over and Crick, John Dickson, Neill, Bruce and Co, P. Gamson, Unclaimed letters – Bloom, Brooke, Cocking; Currie, Griffiths, Hardy, Hull, Mather, McIntyre, Rimington, Rolls, Rowland, Young, Williams, Wallace; J. F. Arnold, Skidmore family, Puntons, Moyle family, William Loudon, Daniel Williams, Fernandes, J. Koeford, Jim Doherty, Walter Summerfield, Mr Dates, Peter Barker, Ada Louis Victoria George Murdoch Stockman (later Mrs. Peacock), Frank and Jim Farnsworth.

Progress on Extensions to the Old Avoca Court House – Members who attended our monthly meeting on Sunday, 15th October, worked enthusiastically towards the big opening day planned for Sunday, 19th November. Vacuum cleaners, dusters and Marveer were very evident in the Court House itself, whilst a group busied themselves in the new workroom fitting carpet, a donation kindly arranged by Max Hobson. Lily Mills has kindly supplied the material for the curtains and these have been made up by Dorothy Robinson and Julie Allen. The painting of both the exterior and interior walls has been completed, thanks to 180 hours of voluntary labour given by a small, loyal band of local members. Our grateful thanks goes to all those who have contributed in any way to the completion and furnishing of the extensions.

Plans are well in hand for the light luncheon to be provided after the official opening but we would be glad of donations of cakes and slices on the day. There will be no charge for the luncheon but the Society would be most appreciative of donations to assist us in meeting the shortfall of over $1,000 of our financial commitment towards the cost of the extensions. We are grateful to those members who have already given their support to this appeal.

If you are planning to attend the official opening and the luncheon, and have not yet indicated your intention, please complete the RSVP slip on page 5 of this newsletter and mail it to the Secretary by 10th November.

The luncheon will be followed by our regular monthly meeting when plans will be made for the Christmas get-together to be held on Sunday, 10th December.

Thanks – The Society acknowledges with thanks the donation of a microfiche reader by Murray Little. Murray’s computer expertise and assistance is also much appreciated, such as the scanning of our photograph collection and its `thumbnail’ version which appears on our web page.

New Members – Our excellent web page attracts many visitors, some of whom follow through by joining the Society. We extend a warm welcome to the following new members, most of whom have joined via the Internet:

Mr. Tony ANSETT, of Lara, Vic., whose interests are David Williamson BURKE, PRIESTLEY and DOUGLAS, of Percydale, Moonambel, Mountain Creek, Avoca and Landsborough. Mrs. Janine CMG, of Rosanna, Vic., who is researching the GALE, EBELING and BARKER families. Mrs. Jan ANDREWS, of Cowes, Phillip Island, Vic., researching the ROWLAND family. Mr. Adrian WHITE, of Stafford, England, who is researching Charles CAMERON and Catherine JENKINS. Mrs. Kath MARTIN, of Epsom, Vic., whose interests are POWER and TOOLE.

“Continuing The Journey” is the theme of a visual exploration of Victorian migration to be shown through paintings and photographs on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th November, from 10 am to 4 pm, at the Avoca Court House, under the auspices of the Maryborough U3 A (University of the Third Age). Entry of $5 includes refreshments. The Court House will also be open for research enquiries on both days and cemetery tours will be conducted on the Sunday. For further details, contact Colleen Allen on 5465 3296.

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Lexton – On Sunday, 10th September, 2000, the congregation of St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Lexton, celebrated the 125th anniversary of the construction of their building. Official guests included Bishop David Silk, Rev. Michael Leah, Pyrenees Shire President Cr. Lester Harris and Mrs. Harris, and representatives from other denominations. An impressive service followed, enabling those present to reflect on past important chapters in the life of the Church, with the attendance of Bishop Silk being a highlight of the occasion. After the service, those present enjoyed an opportunity to renew acquaintances with former parishioners and other guests over afternoon tea.

The following is some background history of the Anglican Church in Lexton –

In 1847, squatters in the area near the township of Lexton (Burnbank) contributed funds to build a manse on Doctor’s Creek hoping to entice a man of the cloth to settle in the district. A United Presbyterian, Mr. Lachlan McGillivray, moved into the manse but he only stayed twelve months. In 1850, the Rev. John Cheyne, an Episcopalian, moved into the manse and, as far as we know, preached the first Anglican service at Burnbank. During the early years of the Church, services were held in Lexton’s first Court House.

It was not until 1874 that the Anglicans decided to build their own church and began raising funds by concerts, bazaars and donations. Tenders were called later the same year for the church to be built, with William Morley, of Amphitheatre, being the successful tenderer. The first services were celebrated in the new building on 23rd May, 1875, by the Venerable Archdeacon Stretch.

It is interesting to note what might have been an important development for local Anglicans but for the discovery of gold in the 1850s. In The Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1835-52 by Garryowen (Edmund Finn), the following news was reported: “At the Annual Meeting of the Anglican Diocesan Society held at the Mechanics Institute in Melbourne on 26 September 1851, His Honour Superintendent Latrobe was the Chairman. On the agenda was a report by Mr. R. W. Pohlman on progress made in the affairs of the Church; during discussion of the report it was revealed that the Church was contemplating establishing boarding Schools at Ballan and Burnbank”. As with many other plans at this time, the discovery of gold brought about changes and the school at Burnbank did not eventuate.

Obituary for Mr. David Gray (from the `Talbot Leader’, Saturday, August 28th, 1909) “Lexton – from our Correspondent. Mr. David Gray, whose death was recorded in your last issue, was born at Kinross, Scotland, on the banks of Loch Leven, on the 10th January, 1828. (Where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.) He left Scotland for Australia on April 21st, 1849, arriving in Melbourne in August of the same year. He was a smith by trade and he made the first picks used at the Chines Diggings. He retired from business about eight years ago, but was an active and industrious man. He leaves a family of two sons and five daughters living to mourn his loss. He leaves two brothers (Mr. James Gray of Lexton, and Mr. Rob. Gray, retired teacher and Lord Provost of the town of Aucherarder), and one sister. He was a trustee of the Lexton Cemetery for years. The Rev. C. Neville conducted the service at the grave, and in the absence of Messrs. Phelan and Sons, on account of the floods, Mr. James Gray carried out the mortuary arrangements.”

Mr. David Gray, blacksmith of Lexton, was a nephew of David Anderson, of the Burnbank Inn, Lexton. David Anderson was the pioneer settler at Lexton (Burnbank) in 1845.

(My thanks to Margaret Oulton for these interesting items concerning Lexton. Ed.)

Some History of Moonambel – With the Moonambel Primary School No. 1683 marking its 125th anniversary on the 3rd, 4th and 5th November, 2000, it is timely to look at some history of the early days of the area, as published in a souvenir issue of The Avoca Mail, dated the 3rd December, 1975

“Records of the very early history of Moonambel, or Moona Belle, have been hard to find but from what we can trace the first land taken up in the area was Mountain Creek Station. Taken up by McKinnon, probably in the 1840s, it extended from the top of the hills at Barkly to the Avoca River, and to the top of the hills to the north and south of that area.

This was later sold to Fletcher, and then to Bill Adams and, for many years, the homestead part has been in the Slater family. Miss Et. Slater still lives in this house.

The Aboriginal meaning of Moonambel is `Hollow in the Hills’.

There is no exact record of the first gold rush at Moonambel but gold was found at Navarre and Avoca in 1852.

Moonambel must have been a thriving town in the 1850s because in 1858 Mr. Godfray Morgan started a newspaper known as the Moonambel Pioneer, in a 25 x 60 feet building all soft timbered floor, galvanised iron sides and roof and situated `in the best part of Brooke Street,’ Moonambel. One of the staff was Mr. John F. Paten who later bought the business from Mr. Morgan, and for some time was successful. But as the gold began to give out and the people were seeking fresh fields, he moved to Avoca and in December, 1863, he launched The Avoca Mail.

Businesses in Moonambel in 1862 included Bull and Beedon, family grocers, seedsmen, wine and spirit merchants, and gold buyers; J. Stevens, hay and produce dealer; N.B. Colonial salt on sale; Symons and DuBourg, timber merchants and ironmongers; Jones and Lowe, wholesale wine, spirit, and provision merchants; Over and Crick, produce dealers; John Dickson, wine, spirit and provision merchant; Neill, Bruce and Co., wholesale merchants; and P. Gamson, chemist and druggist, best Spanish quick silver, trusses, leeches, etc.

In those times, unclaimed letters were advertised and the names included Bloom, Brooke, Cocking; Currie, Griffiths, Hardy, Hull, Mather, McIntyre, Rimington, Rolls, Rowland, Young, Williams and Wallace. The postmaster was J. F. Arnold.

News of 1861 – `New ground opened in front of Reynold’s store, on the upper portion of the lead.’ The increasing amount of gold forwarded by escort on Saturday last, 1643 ozs. 10 dwts., shows that the miners are very generally succeeding in obtaining fair remuneration for their labour.

Donkey Hill – this place still continues to progress favourably – a claim bottomed on the upper end of the lead in 60 feet sinking; on the lower end of the lead, and in 40 feet sinking, several good payable holes have bottomed. The sinking is very hard and takes two men eight days to bottom …. Mr. Marsden bought 60 ozs. of the precious metal last week; the new lead has only been working for a few weeks.

There must have been police situated at Moonambel at that time as an ad. in December 1863 is for the provision of rations for prisoners as required at Moonambel and Redbank Police Stations. The police residence and jail are still there.

The first small cottage on the left in Moonambel near the cemetery was built in 1861 by the Skidmore family; one of that family, Fanny, was grandmother to the present generation of Puntons.

There was another gold rush in the district in the 1860s and a map of a subdivision of the township in 1864 shows goldfields to the east and west of the town.

In 1866 there was a moving population of about 30,000 living in tents near the mines, but many more permanent buildings were also established. There were five hotels, butchers, general stores, at least one blacksmith, and a court house. One of the hotels, The Commercial (now the only one), was built in 1866 and was owned by the Moyle family from that time until 1969. It was this hotel which had the Cobb and Co. stables.

In March, 1866, there was a meeting of the ratepayers of the Borough of Moonambel called by the Mayor, and held at the Pilot Boat Hotel. The Mayor said he had called the meeting for the purpose of testing the opinion of ratepayers as to the question of amalgamation with the Avoca Road Board. The vote was not to join.

And in June 1864 there was an inquest held at the Shamrock Hotel, Moonambel, `touching the death of one William Loudon, a miner’.

In June 1865 came the Land Act allowing the selection of 20 acre leases. One of the successful people was Daniel Williams who received 100 acres on which he intended to grow tobacco and vines. Mr. Williams named his place Tanwood because of the wattle trees which grew on the block. When tobacco growing proved unprofitable, Mr. Williams turned to grain and wool growing.

Other landholders planted orchards, the largest being Fernandes in which the codlin moth in apples was controlled by spraying a liquid made from soaking tobacco. Vineyards were also planted and the best known of these was planted by Costellos, and later owned by J. Koeford, just east of the Moonambel township. This vineyard produced Mountain Creek wine and was closed down when Mr. Koeford died in 1948.

Much of the gold mining was alluvial but there were many deep mines including the Moonambel Mine which was owned by Jim Doherty and continued to operate until 1904. Others were Wright’s Reward and Tormey’s Reef.

An indication of the number of people living in the district in the 1860s are two ads in The Avoca Mail in 1867 offering for sale the Mountain Creek Brewery, and the Pyrenees Brewery, in Warrenmang.

At the turn of the century, and in the memory of some who came to the `Back To’ [in 1975] were the operating of two batteries, one on the road to Redbank, just over a `humpty back’ bridge and the other on the creek near the town, and a whim, the remnants of which are still in the hills north of the town; this was used to lift the stone from the Moonambel Mine. The horse which worked on the whim at that time was Minnie.

There were four flour mills in Moonambel, on the creek, and a soap and candle factory, which produced Yankee Magic Soap, owned by Murgatroids, situated near the cemetery.

Crick’s had the butcher’s shop; there was a green-gfocer; the bakery was established in 1873 and Stewarts continued to bake bread daily; Walter Summerfield was a boot and shoe maker, barber, dentist and some-time shearer, situated next to the Commercial Hotel; Fitzgeralds had the P.O. and store, and Castlemans had a blacksmith’s shop until 1919, when they moved to Avoca.

Mr. Dates registered births, deaths and marriages, and he lived near the hall, built in 1901, on the north side of the street near the creek. This hall was washed away in 1909 and parts of it were found in the Avoca River as far away as Donald.

At Frenchman’s, Peter Barker and his family had the Woolpacker Hotel, a change station for coaches on the Cobb and Co. mail run from Avoca to Landsborough; this was closed about 1906. Peter Barker was a fast bowler of some merit and played in a country team at Bendigo against an Australian Eleven. At the turn of the century he organised many picnic race meetings, and an annual concert for the Amherst Hospital.

A lady of note at that time was the Pyrenees Nightingale who made tours of the colonies as a singer. She was Ada Louis Victoria George Murdoch Stockman (later Mrs. Peacock).

Another industry in the Moonambel area which has held out is the making of eucalyptus oil. During the Second World War, there were five or six vats in the district, three of which were owned by descendants of Frank Farnsworth. Mr. Jim Farnsworth employed 33 men in this work during the war. The liquid was used for holding explosives.

Moonambel was connected with S.E.C. power in 1962.”

See Newsletter No. 178, of February, 2000, for a report on the “Back To Moonambel” held on 29th November, 1975, taken from the same paper, The Avoca Mail, of 3rd December, 1975.